Three finalists for police chief’s job meet with Topeka residents

Lorean Williams said she was glad to hear a commitment to transparency expressed Thursday evening by all three finalists for the Topeka police chief’s job, but she couldn’t help but wonder if they were only telling her what she wanted to hear.


Williams, the chairwoman of the Topeka Human Relations Commission and a member of the Topeka Police Department Advisory Board, said she came away with a positive impression of each after speaking separately with Dominic Rizzi Jr., William “Bill” Cochran and D. Samuel “Sam” Dotson.

Williams, who is African-American, was among residents who took advantage of an opportunity to meet face-to-face with the finalists between 5:30 and 7 p.m. at the Ramada Hotel and Convention Center, 420 S.W. 6th.

An estimated 75 people attended the “meet and greet,” said Jacque Russell, the city’s human resources director.

City manager Brent Trout selected Rizzi, Cochran and Dotson this past Tuesday as finalists to fill the chief’s job, which became vacant with the departure last January of then-Chief James Brown. Kris Kramer served as the department’s interim chief until early November, when Cochran — who’s been with the Topeka department since 1987 — was named to that position.

The other two finalists are Rizzi, who has been police chief since 2012 for Yakima, Wash., and previously was with the Chicago Police Department; and Dotson, who was police chief from 2012 until last April for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, which he joined in 1993.

Trout intends to decide between the candidates the candidates by Jan. 12, Russell said.

Whoever is hired will take office at a time of uncertainty triggered by the Sept. 28 shooting death of Dominique White by two Topeka officers in East Topeka. Though Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay concluded the officers were justified in the shooting and won’t face criminal charges, the city still faces the possibility of a lawsuit over White’s death.

Those present for Thursday’s evening’s gathering included Mayor Larry Wolgast; Topeka City Council members Karen Hiller, Sandra Clear and Michelle De La Isla; and Councilmen-elect Mike Padilla, Aaron Mays and Michael Lesser, each of whom takes office next week.

Russell said the three finalists met Thursday with a “community panel” of Topeka residents, took part in a “meet and greet” at Topeka police headquarters, then took part in that evening’s gathering at the Ramada.

Residents were given access to index cards they could fill out to share their perspectives with Trout, Russell said. Participants also could provide feedback using the city website, she said.

Topekans attending Thursday evening’s event included Luis Estrada, a community organizer for El Centro, a nonprofit social service agency that has helped Latinos and others here since 1972.

Estrada, who is Hispanic, said he met with each candidate and came away feeling confident that whoever Trout chooses will make a great police chief.

He said all of the candidates told him about their records of involvement and engagement with the Hispanic community.


Reporter Tim Hrenchir can be reached at (785) 295-1184 or @timhrenchir on Twitter.